The sure sign that I’m enjoying my meal enough to write about it is when I ask about it. A few Sundays ago I grilled our server at 5 North about the delightful riff on jam into which I was dipping my brunch’s doughnuts (more about that next edition). And not too long ago at Zesta Cucina, I was asking so many questions about the dreamy chicken canneloni that the restaurant’s owner — the inimitable Lucho — came out to pay my table a visit.
Our server had been unable to isolate the sweet/spicy ingredient that I was having a very difficult time naming. I knew what it was (you could say it was just on the tip of my tongue), but taste after taste, it continued to elude me. Cloves? Cinnamon? After the server made two unsuccessful trips to the kitchen, Lucho slid into our booth and answered my question.
“Nutmeg,” he said. Mystery solved.
There are a number of items on Zesta’s menu that I could write about — the chopped salad, the eggplant parmesan — but that sweet-savory chicken canneloni is a long-time favorite. The chicken-filled crepes house rich ricotta cheese, tart sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. The crepes and cheese are then broiled (which makes any cheese better) and topped with two “dueling” sauces: a marinara and a white sauce that the menu calls an alfredo. It’s this white sauce that carries that hint of nutmeg I was trying so hard to identify. I believe this is the point at which Lucho launched into a history of white sauces, but the crisp-tender crepes and and the delicate yet rich and slightly sweet sauce distracted me from his lesson.
The crepes also include Zesta’s signature sauteed vegetables. Yellow and green zuchini and red onions get the Zesta treatment, tossed with tons of garlic until they’re just al dente. Your taste buds won’t be bored.